The UK will fail to hit its target of decarbonising the power sector by 2035 unless government urgently takes action to better support the delivery of clean energy projects, according to a report released by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee.
The extensive report highlights that a secure, decarbonised and effective electricity system can be delivered by 2035, providing there is “political will to do it”, but that related policies seem to have been “designed in silos” with little attention to how they interrelate, leading to multiple challenges, including certain clean energy projects facing delays of up to fifteen years to connect to the grid.
While supporting the creation of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero the committee is calling for “enhanced political leadership” to create an all-encompassing, more streamlined delivery plan for our clean energy transition. They also mirrored the thoughts of many across the sector by insisting that problems such as grid capacity and planning consent are tackled far more quickly if the UK is to achieve its’ energy decarbonisation target and ultimately Net Zero emissions by 2050.
The committee also warned that the UK faced stiff competition from abroad for capital investment in clean energy projects, as a result of larger, more attractive subsidies being available elsewhere.
Other actions called for the in the report include:
- An end to the de facto ban on one of the cheapest forms of renewable electricity in England – onshore wind.
- Greater Government support for long-duration energy storage
- A better plan for the use of hydrogen across the economy
- An immediate injection of the £6 billion funding promised for energy efficiency measures, currently scheduled for 2025 – 2028
- Clarification on where private finance for nuclear energy projects will come from
Responding to the report, Adam Berman, Deputy Director of Advocacy at Energy UK, said:
“This report echoes concerns raised by ourselves and many across the energy industry in recent months. If the Government doesn’t quickly acknowledge and respond to the challenges that have grown for low-carbon developers then it is putting its own decarbonisation targets in jeopardy – as well as the UK’s energy security.
“For example, the rising costs faced by renewables projects have not been reflected in the next Contracts for Difference auction which risks us falling further and further behind in delivering the amount of clean domestic power we urgently need to ensure our energy security, cut bills, and reduce emissions.
“In addition to that, we have a windfall tax that gives favourable treatment to oil and gas companies over renewables developers at the very time when there is increasing competition for green investment from the United States and Europe. The real and present fear is that if we don’t move quickly to improve the investment climate, that money will find a home elsewhere.”
Mark Sommerfeld, Head of Power and Flexibility at the REA (the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology), said:
“The REA strongly welcomes the focus in the BEIS Select Committee’s new report ‘Decarbonisation of the power sector’ on accelerating the delivery of renewable energy technologies. As well as streamlining the current pipeline of renewables, the UK must act decisively to ensure that green investment is not diverted away from the UK to other jurisdictions as a result of stronger incentives elsewhere.
“We support the committee’s call for government to urgently address some of the biggest barriers to renewable deployment, including the unacceptable delays to planning and grid connections being experienced across the sector.
“Sustainable bioenergy has been instrumental to our power sector decarbonisation so far and is widely acknowledged to be essential to delivering Net Zero. The REA is keen to see sensible discussion on bioenergy based on the realities on the ground. The report recognises the role of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) but fails to properly engage both with the current strong, multi-layered sustainability governance for biomass which is already in place, and the well-established climate science underpinning the use of sustainable bioenergy to displace fossil fuels.
“If the UK is to meet its ambitious carbon targets, we must recognise that bioenergy will continue to have a critical role to play, utilising both imports and increased domestic feedstock supplies. The focus, therefore, must be on continuing to do bioenergy right, following strict sustainability governance, and building on the success of the existing sector.”
The ‘Decarbonisation of the power sector’ report can be downloaded in full here.